The Game Boy: Why Transmedia Gaming's Totally Missing The Point

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The Game Boy: Why Transmedia Gaming's Totally Missing The Point

When I devote time to media – whether it's a game, TV show, book, or slice of delicious chocolate cake drowned in molten frosting lava – I tend to lose myself in it. I think about it constantly. My speech becomes laden with referential jargon, and probably by pure coincidence, my friends start punching me in the throat more frequently. That's the power of a great world, though. You have to drag me away from it kicking and screaming, and even when you do, I bring a few chunks of officially licensed astro turf along for the ride. 

But it's fun to be hopelessly and utterly absorbed in a place halfway across the galaxy from Real Life's day-to-day doldrums. Whether it's a million-mile-per-hour escape from reality or something that ends up hitting all too close to home, there's something downright magical about, say, wandering Fallout's wastes or selecting the “family” conversation option of every goddamn person in Mass Effect 3's entire galaxy. Things like that are, in large part, the reason I play games. 

So I think I'm probably qualified to talk about why transmedia's insidious, spindly web of Facebook games, apps, iOS spin-offs, art books, and delicious chocolate cakes drowned in molten frosting lava is doing it so very, very, very wrong.     

In truth, transmedia has always fascinated me. I've had more high-noon bookstore staredowns with videogame novelizations than I can count, with crowds of bystanders mumbling “Will they or won't they” until the book and I finally embrace in steamy liplock. To this day, I still have dreams about Metal Gear Solid 2's titular tome, its lingering looks and musky perfume now a stain on my very soul. OK, I'm exaggerating that part, but I can stump most Halo nerds because I read a couple not-completely-but-mostly-terrible novels in high school. 

Today, though, transmedia finds itself charmed out of its cramped niche jar by a robotic melody made up entirely of buzzwords. Brand synchronicity. Facebook integration. IOS F2P FPS GPS. Many of these social extensions claim to be “casual” experiences to help ease in new players as well, but – as soon as they start hurling “unlock items in the PC/console game,” “download the app,” and “pester all your friends to procede more quickly” at folks who haven't touched a game since Tetris – the whole notion of simplicity explodes into a dusty haze of confusion. There are so many layers to these things, and transmedia games – by virtue of hedging their monetary bets on transmedia – certainly aren't shy about them. I play games all the time, and these things overwhelm me. I can't even imagine what it's like for someone who thinks WASD is some sort of anti-drug organization. 

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someuid

When I built a new computer last winter for my wife, the video card came with a free copy of Dirt 3. After getting through the whole Live account setup (see http://techreport.com/discussions.x/22085) and finally got the game up and running, I saw all the on-line integration to share your scores, replays, stats, cars, etc.

I exited the game without even giving it a try. My wife never tried it either. Their entire intro was about how I can share everything I do with the world to see how stack up. F' that. I have better things to do.

Does this bother me? No. It simply highlights to me those companies that are run by business managers who's choices are made based upon the profit column in their spreadsheet, not the content or quality of the game. Hence I know to go look elsewhere.

Does this mean I'm playing the latest and greatest triple A title? No. And that is ok. It means I get to play the games I end up really liking, because I picked a game from a studio that was interested in actually making a game, rather than measuring some pointless statistic like "# of likes on facebook". I've no interest in keeping up with the jones at work who play the newest release of a game. They aren't really game players anyway. Get one of them into a serious game like skirmishes in Company of Heroes vs experts and you quickly see how poor they are at playing a video game to start with.

Good article Nathan. In the future, when you and the other editors are reviewing a game, please be sure to mention "riddled with facebook and Live integration" so I know to avoid it, or at least expect it when I install it (if I do.)

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slibinz

Agreed. I'm the only person in my RIFT guild who doesn't have a smartphone (sorry, but I can barely afford the $15/month just to play, let alone a new phone + data plan) and every single day I fall behind them a little more, because they can use the RIFT Mobile App to get in-game rewards that I cannot.

As if people aren't tied (no, frak that, SURGICALLY CONNECTED) to their phones enough as it is....

I couldn't agree with the article's author enough. Games should be a stand-alone escape from your life. This transmedia crap just smacks of desperation to me. You don't always have to be a part of the "next big thing", just do what you do WELL and you'll always be successful.

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flyup

Here are some brass knuckles made from the real world.

Devil's Advocate: If you were a patriot then you wouldn't be slandering transmedia. It's one of gamings finest barriers in piracy. Sharing character and stats across platforms is a stick in the mud for pirates.

On selecting "how's your family"- I select this option because I want to ferret out all the hot 'love' scenes. I feel like that's a romantic thing to say to my female crew members. Okay, I say it to the males too--- And the Aliens!!! Transmedia baby!

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Matarsak

Altar. The almighty ALTAR of transmedia.

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dgrmouse

I suspect that I'd agree with the general sentiment of this article if I could tell what the heck the author was talking about. Try reading this article as if you had never played the games in question and had no idea what a transmedia is. It's a pretty major failure.

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Ghok

I thought the same thing, dgrmouse. I'm pretty sure I agree with the article in question, but I didn't really understand a lot of what was being talked about without making a lot of assumptions. Fair enough, since I never played the games in question.

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Raswan

You, unlike the author of the article here, clearly never read any books in high school, because your reading comprehension sucks balls. You can't engage with the thesis because the particulars he's referencing are outside of the scope of your personal experience? Please.

Great article Nathan. As always, well-written (though I think you're getting a little attached to ctrl+B; don't worry, you're a good enough writer that we'll get the point on our own), interesting, and full of wit. You, Chacos, and Lilly are the stylistic glue holding this website together. Keep up the good work.

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DanQuixote

"Donny, you're out of your element."

I don't know if I would go so far as to call the article a failure. For someone who has never heard of the games mentioned and has no idea what transmedia is, I guess it would be difficult to deduce the purpose of this article. Just as if I were to read an article about quantum physics (which I know very little about), I would probably have a hard time trying to figure out what the heck it was talking about. I would also have a hard time judging the merits of the article given my lack of knowledge. For a lot of articles, especially on this website, you need some sort of background knowledge or frame of reference to understand what is being said.

You are obviously entitled to your opinion. However, I think that this article speaks to many gamers, like myself, who have played these games and can relate to the frustration of seemingly required extracurricular game shenanigans.

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DanQuixote

Great article! I'm glad someone has finally spoken up to address this awful aspect of modern games. While playing through the Mass Effect 3 single player campaign, I felt that playing multiplayer was almost like homework. While the multiplayer is fun, it felt more like a chore playing game after game to get my galactic readiness up before completing the final mission of the game, and don't even get me started on iOS spin-offs.

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LatiosXT

Now that you mention it, I'm going to start groaning every time I see something out of place happening.

Like last night I beat Alan Wake for the PC. However I think I never really experienced what the game was really like because of shallow rewards that they were offering me for doing things in the game. Collect the coffee thermos! Do something in x amount of time! Kill x amount of Taken with a weapon!

In fact, when I was looking at one for defeating the final boss in under a minute thirty, I had to get a grip on myself. What was the point?

I guess it's not as bad as when a game series starts to intermingle with one another, just so you have to buy them all to get the complete package.

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